I was not a musician. I can’t carry a tune in a paper bag. I’ve never learned to read music or play an instrument. I’ve only enjoyed music as a fan and listener. A consumer.

I donated self-defense classes to a girls’ summer camp this July. This was not just any summer camp, this was Girls Rock! Camp, where in one week girls ages 8 – 16 learn to play an instrument, form a band, write a song, practice, and play to a raving audience. They also learn about the herstory of women in rock music, media and female body image, electronic music, DJing, zine making, song-writing . . . and self-defense.

AWESOME!!! I was thrilled to work with these girls, as well as also a tad envious. Where was this camp when I was that age?

Then one of the organizers just happened to mention Ladies Rock! Camp. My ears perked up. “Oh, there’s another event?” Yes, a long weekend where women (ages 19+) learn to play an instrument, form a band, write a song, practice, and play to a raving audience. No experience necessary.

I signed up. I didn’t think twice, and that was alright.

I picked drums as my instrument. As a self-defense and karate instructor I already know how to hit things, so I figured this would be a natural extension. Playing drums was still a stretch and a challenge, and it was one of the most outstanding weekends I’ve ever had. I learned a lot, and found there’s common points between learning to play rock music and self-defense.

First, both are DIY. Do It Yourself, really. Sure if you want adulation and admiration from throngs of adoring fans you’ll have to practice a lot and get super-good, and that’s just the beginning. But if you just want to hang and jam with your friends, you don’t need the chops of Ringo Starr. Similarly, for self-defense you don’t need the chops of Jackie Chan, you just need awareness, some evasion strategies, and a few basic moves which will get you out of 99.5% of the badness you’re likely to encounter.

Second, both happen in the moment. Practiced musicians often create impromptu lyrics and melody lines. They improvise. And if you should find yourself in a threatening situation you too will have to improvise. You have to be continuously paying attention and adjusting your tactics. And it will help that you’ve taken a self-defense class and have the basic skills.

Third, you get out what you put in. That means participation, really getting into it. Few things fall flatter than music played without feeling. In learning self-defense, you train like it’s for real. So, if it ever does get real, you are ready.

Finally — and if you’ve been reading this e-newsletter for a while, you could probably guess this one — both are LOUD. Rock musicians, even “soft” ones, WANT to be heard! They DO have something to say! And guess what: so do you!

Okay, so maybe Ringo Starr needn’t worry about me. And maybe you don’t want to put in the time and work to learn how to become a ninja assassin. But, with a little help from your friends, you too can discover your inner rock star self-defender.


Fall self-defense classes are now open for enrollment.  Visit http://www.StrategicLiving.org/schedule101.htm for more information and registration on the 5 week Self-Defense 101 courses, http://www.StrategicLiving.org/schedule3hour.htm for one-day seminars, or http://www.StrategicLiving.org/scheduleWW.htm for the November weekend workshop.